Kathmandu III: quake update

I wasn’t going to post anything just yet about the earthquake, mainly because we have no power and I’m running on battery here and the internet is dependent on the solar inverter. I’ve been dropping a few lines here and there on Facebook and responding to emails from friends and family, thinking that when we get our wits back maybe I’ll have something more intelligent to say than “Holy Shit!!”

But then I checked my email again and noticed a message from the US state department, which is always looking out for us, aren’t they? What they have to say is this:

On April 25 at around noon, a 7.9 earthquake – centered between Kathmandu and Pokhara – struck Nepal.  In Kathmandu, some buildings are collapsed and some roads are impassable.  Cell phone and internet service are intermittant.  Many roads are crowded with people and transportation is difficult.  If you are in a safe location, please shelter in place.  Avoid large crowds, which can turn violent with little notice.

This is almost entirely an accurate statement…until you get to that last line where the suggestion is made that people in Kathmandu might decide to “turn violent with little notice.”

What I have to say in my best imitation of Buddhist equanimity and compassion is this: Fuck You, US State Department. I was on my scooter today 90 minutes after the quake. I traveled from one end of this city in Maharajgunj to the other in Chobar and back, going to the school in Chobar where I’ve been volunteering, because I was concerned about the students there and the condition of the school. What I saw along the way were crowds of people, yes, who were blocking much of the roads in groups, yes, sitting on the curbs, clustering on the river banks, standing in the middle of intersections, walking with friends.

What I saw were people who were bewildered, frightened, in shock, fearful of returning to their homes, expecting more quakes at any moment, wondering how they would manage their lives tomorrow or the next day. What I saw were people without power, without the means to make food, without the means to communicate with family or loved ones.

I did not see people who could “turn violent with little notice.” I saw no violence. I felt no threat. No one was acting out. There weren’t even loud noises, except to warn others not to cross the bridge right now. I saw people who were comforting each other, not thinking about the next store window they could smash. I saw people thanking their gods they were alive, not ready to blame somebody for an act of nature or commit some opportunistic act against their very neighbors.

Only someone from the US State Department, whose very existence depends on seeing the imminent threat of violence everywhere, especially wherever large crowds of people gather to communicate with each other, regardless of the circumstances, would see this situation through that lens. And what they are telling Americans to do is stay indoors, where it is undoubtedly safe because you don’t really think all that stuff about aftershocks is real, do you? The US State Department. In Aftershock Denial. We’ve been having several aftershocks every hour for 10 hours.

Only someone cooped up deep in the bowels of Foggy Bottom, surrounded by position papers and briefing books, steeped in the jargon of the Surveillance State could surmise that violence might “happen with little notice?” By what fevered math or demented vision does a mass encounter with the frailty of life equate to such a thing?

Can anyone tell me just exactly where that has ever happened? Ever?

“Well, I guess we have to say something, look like we’re taking care of our citizens and giving them the tools to manage their travel circumstances in the safest possible way. Oh, I know. We’ll tell them to look out for the violence that can happen at any moment.” That’s original.

Which brings me to that adage that seems to fit so perfectly here: If all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Excuse me, we just had another 4+ aftershock. I’m going outside with the family to, like…get violent. Or something.


8 thoughts on “Kathmandu III: quake update

  1. Gary, thanks for this post. A hammer indeed. In the spirit of collective consciousness and the positive forces it can conjure, would you mind if I post this on FB? Stay safe. You’re in my thoughts today and in those that follow, for what will be quite a long healing process.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, Gary, are you still all right in Kathmandu? That was some nasty earthquake, and clearly the city is reeling.
    I’m assuming you are in the middle of the rescue and relief effort? Do try to be safe – we are concerned about you.

    Bill and Eve

    William Strawn
    Manager, Legislative & Public Affairs
    Department of Building Inspection
    1660 Mission Street, Suite 600
    San Francisco, CA 94103-2414
    Mobile: 415/850-9816
    Tel. 415/558-6250
    Fax: 415/558-6225


    • Will and Eve, thanks. Am fine. A very significant national tragedy. But pretty much grounded for 2 days with no cell, no wifi, no power. Access to recovery sites limited to govt issued ID. No commerce until today. Limited water. Cell and wifi just came up this morning. Moving to hotel today and now must prepare for travel to Pokhara and beyond.


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